Ukraine Leader in Black Market of Human Organ Trafficking – Russian Foreign Ministry

Rampant corruption and lawlessness in Ukraine have effectively turned the country into a veritable paradise for organ traffickers

Image Credits: Reza Estakhrian / Getty Images.

Rampant corruption and lawlessness in Ukraine have effectively turned the country into a veritable paradise for organ traffickers eager to take advantage of cheap and abundant supply of human tissue.

While reports about organs being illegally removed from the bodies of the deceased in Ukraine started emerging as early as in the late 1990s amid the decline of the Ukrainian economy, the illicit organ harvesting and trade in the country started becoming more widespread during the 2000s, noted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

In her op-ed in one of the Russian newspapers, Zakharova pointed out that the 2014 coup in Kiev and the armed conflict in Donbass that followed further exacerbated the problem, with OSCE confirming the discovery of the bodies with removed internal organs in mass graves located in the conflict zone.

Things have taken a turn for the worse since the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict in February 2022, while the laws passed by Ukrainian legislators in recent years greatly simplify the work of black market transplant specialists.

For example, Zakharova points out, the Law No. 5831 passed by the Ukrainian parliament on December 16, 2021, effectively waives the requirement for a written consent of a living donor or their relatives for organ donation.

“There is no need to authenticate signatures, either. In effect, even the removal of organs from children is permitted. The procedure for removing organs from the deceased who did not consent to donation while living has been significantly simplified,” Zakharova surmised.

She added that, under the Ukrainian legislation, the person responsible for the burial of a deceased, such as a head doctor at a hospital or a military unit’s commander, could grant permission for the removal of tissues from the corpse.

Furthermore, private clinics in the country have also been granted the right to perform transplantation, while the Law No. 5610 adopted by Ukraine’s parliament on April 14, 2022, made transplantation exempt from VAT.Posthumous organ donations and the sale of human organs abroad have also been legalized in Ukraine.

Massive casualties taken by Ukraine’s Armed Forces amid the escalation of the Ukrainian conflict resulted in a steady supply of fresh corpses that could be harvested for organs, leading to the emergence of hearts, livers, kidneys and other body parts of slain Ukrainian soldiers on the darknet marketplaces, Zakharova noted citing media reports.

One black market dealer reportedly claimed that a heart could be procured quickly for €25,000 while kidneys may be obtained for €12,000. The delivery, limited to the EU countries, would be made in a medical box within 48 to 60 hours, either to a predetermined location or directly to the recipient.

Zakharova also claimed that people related to the infamous Kosovo Liberation Army – a militant group whose members faced allegations of illegal organ harvesting in the past – may own this illicit organ marketplace or at least have dealings with it.

Aside from Ukrainian soldiers, the children of Ukraine also risk falling prey to illicit organ traffickers.

For example, in June 2023 a member of a certain charity was detained on the border between Ukraine and Slovakia.

According to Zakharova, the detainee was involved in the trafficking of Ukrainian children abroad, with some of these children trafficked for the purpose of organ transplantation.

Despite the severity of the accusations against him, the suspect was released on a 1 million hryvnias (about $27,000) bail and promptly disappeared.

“This is conclusive evidence that the Ukrainian state is covering up and encouraging this bloody business,” Zakharova stated, adding that people close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may be involved in this sordid trade.

She pointed at the reports of a deal struck in June between representatives of the Health Ministry of a certain NATO country and some “private businessmen” from Ukraine who were assisted by people from Ukraine’s Health Ministry and the Presidential Office.

The deal in question involved the delivery of a refrigerated train car from Ukraine, loaded with “human organs and body parts that are most often used for transplants – corneas, some bones, connective tissues, hearts and livers,” as Zakharova put it.

She also observed that Ukrainian businessmen involved in the organ trade often cannot specify the exact origins of the human tissues they provide, leading experts to suspect that these organs may have been harvested illegally from slain Ukrainian soldiers. This speculation does sound plausible in light of the high casualty rates in Ukrainian Armed Forces and large numbers of Ukrainian soldiers being declared missing in action.

“This allows these criminals to cover their tracks and send human organs and body parts to the western regions of Ukraine, where they are prepared to be sent abroad for transplants,” Zakharova suggested.

Evidence of crimes against humanity